Oliver tries to dodge but he's too slow. He's just an ordinary mortal, pitted against thugs that are too strong and too fast thanks to the mirakuru serum. He takes a hit to the chest that sends him flying into a pile of crates. That's going to be a cracked rib or two.
He stumbles to his feet and recovers his bow just in time to take a two-by-four to the leg. There's an audible crack. A wave of nausea washes over him as he falls but at least he manages to keep hold of his bow. He unleashes an arrow on the way down that takes the thug right between the eyes.
The warehouse spins around him as he lies still on the floor.
"Diggle, I need help," he says, trusting that Felicity will hear and relay.
The world goes blank.
His dreams are too often nightmares, but not this time, at least not entirely.
He dreams they're at the diner, the same one they go to after every successful mission. If Diggle's sister-in-law has managed to connect their arrival with the vigilante's escapades, she hasn't said anything and he trusts her not to. It's strange to be including her in the circle of trust, even if she is at the very outskirts but they trust her with smaller secrets.
She no longer flirts with Diggle when they come in, and in a way their relationship is stronger for it, closer to friends than the almost lovers they once were. She's perceptive enough that they never needed to say anything. All it took was the possessive arm Diggle puts around Oliver's shoulders every time. It's casual enough to seem companionable to others but she knows Diggle too well to be fooled. It's a claim of territory, a claim Oliver is more than happy to let Diggle get away with since there's so few ways he can acknowledge their relationship in public.
Felicity smiles and sucks on the straw of her milkshake while playing footsie with both Oliver and Diggle under the table. Oliver smiles.
It's a good memory. Not even a single memory, really, but a conglomeration of so many similar events. It helps him forget what his life is really like.
Oliver is unravelling. Not fast, not like someone is pulling his strings and making him come undone. He knows how that feels too well to mistake it. No, this is a slow undoing, built by his own web of lies. He has lies on top of lies and they're all going to crash down upon him.
Maybe not soon enough.
He wakes up in a hospital room with his mother. She's holding his hand tight and he can hear Thea out in the hall with Roy, having an argument about something he can't make out. He knows Diggle is out there too, keeping guard and he relaxes slightly. He's not alone on the island anymore. He has people who can help.
"Oliver." He hates the way his mother says his name in that special tone, like he's disappointed her just by existing. The last time he heard it, he'd been in the hospital. He'll likely hear it again.
She squeezes his hand and then releases him to reach for the call button. She doesn't press it. Her hand settles back on the bed next to his. Her eyes fix on his in concern. "You know you can tell me anything, right? No matter what, I'll still love you and it won't mean a thing. So if there's something going on, someone that's hurting you, you can tell me. I promise I'll do whatever I can to help you."
Oliver shakes his head quickly. "It's nothing like that," he lies.
"This is the second time you've been in the hospital. I don't suppose you're going to tell me who hurt you?"
This is his moment. He has a choice – to keep lying and let the deception fester in him, building into something dark that will consume him, or to come clean. He sighs. He can't burden her with his problems. "Mom..."
She gets a sad look on her face that tells Oliver he made the wrong decision. "I wish you'd trust me."
She presses the call button. The doctor arrives before he can think of a response.
Felicity is supposed to be their lookout. She doesn't have a track record of being a very good lookout, since she usually ends up watching them half the time instead of manning her desk and warning them before someone gets to close. Like now, when Diggle has Oliver pinned to the bed and Oliver's mother is standing in the doorway, her jaw slack and her eyes wide. Felicity's expression is much the same as she appears seconds later, stepping out of the hallway and wiping her damp hands on the sides of her skirt.
He doesn't push Diggle away, doesn't try to deny what's going on. It's pretty obvious that they've been kissing, and he's not going to deny Diggle that, not when he's in the hospital with a broken leg and two cracked ribs.
There have been too many lies already. He's not going to lie about this.
"Mother." Oliver settles on the bed in a more comfortable position, at least as much as he can with his leg in a cast. Diggle stands at attention beside him, a little too close for just a bodyguard.
"I have to say, I never expected this was what you were hiding."
Oliver frowns. His mother's face is a polite mask and he can't get anything from it. "Are you disappointed?"
She shakes her head and a bit of her mask slips. She almost smiles. Four quick steps take her to the opposite side of the bed from Diggle. She settles into one of the uncomfortable-looking chairs. "No. Of course not. It's not what I would have wanted for you, but that's not my choice to make." Her eyes narrow. "This isn't why you were hurt, is it? Did someone-"
She sits back, still tense but not so ready to attack. "Is it serious?"
Diggle tenses beside him. They've never discussed it, never even spoken about what was going on between them. The closeness, the sex – it just happened and neither of them tried to stop it.
He nods. "Serious enough."
Diggle's hand touches his shoulder once in silent thanks and agreement, then withdraws.
Moira's smile appears in full then. "Well." Her lips quirk towards a smirk. "Since I doubt he's actually using the guest room when he stays over, at least have him join us for dinner. None of this standing at attention around the house."
Felicity's watching them through the tiny window in the hospital door. Oliver catches her eyes over his mother's shoulder.
Moira's eyebrows raise again. After a moment's pause, she laughs, her smile even wider. "Yes, Felicity too. You can explain that to your sister."
That is a conversation he's going to enjoy, if nothing for the look on Thea's face. "I will."
"Alright." Moira nods and stands. "The doctor says you can go home tomorrow. I had one of the first floor rooms made up for you so you don't have to worry about the stairs." She smirks. "I'll have them move one of the couches in there in case Felicity or Diggle need the extra room."
Diggle snorts and Oliver knows Diggle has Moira's seal of approval with the amused look she sends his way.
Felicity blushes as Moira waves on the way out. She apparently heard enough of the conversation to be embarrassed about it as she steps into the room.
"Really? That just happened?"
Oliver laughs, even though it hurts. "It did. The secret's out."
"One of them," Felicity says. "Are you really okay with that? With your mother knowing?"
"I would take out a billboard, but it's really no one's business but our own."
"And your family."
"And my family," Diggle adds.
"Mine, I could care less," Felicity says.
"I don't want to have to lie about it."
Felicity snorts. "That's one less lie."
"About that..." Oliver hesitates. "I want to tell them. Mom and Thea and Roy. I think it's time they knew."
Felicity drops into the chair Moira had vacated. "Are you sure?"
"That's a big step, Oliver. Are you sure you want to be doing this right now?" Diggle echoes Felicity's concern. "You are on some pretty heavy drugs."
"I want to," he says and he means it. He really does. "No more lies."
"No more lies," Felicity and Diggle agree. It feels like the kind of promise Oliver can keep.
They let him out of the hospital two days later with instructions to take it easy and get plenty of rest. Unfortunately both Diggle and Moira are there for those instructions, which means he'll actually have to follow them. Diggle helps him settle into his temporary room. It's smaller than his old room, even more cramped with Diggle and Felicity on either side of him, but he's okay with cramped. He's dealt with much, much worse.
He'd asked Thea to bring Roy over. Once she's back, he calls his family into his room. Like his mom promised, they'd moved a couch into his room. Thea raises an eyebrow at Felicity and Diggle's proximity. At least they're all sitting above the covers, with Oliver propped up on a small mountain of pillows. Moira joins a moment later and gives him a small smile of approval.
"In the hospital," Oliver starts, "I made a promise to myself. That I would tell the truth and stop lying, and I figured it would be easier if everyone were here to hear that truth."
Felicity takes his hand in hers and Thea's eyebrows shoot up. "Are you and Felicity getting married?"
Roy shifts uncomfortably next to Thea. "Should I be here for this?"
"No, and yes." Oliver shoots Thea a look as she starts to open her mouth again. "Felicity and I are in a relationship, but Diggle and I are primary."
Thea's eyebrows nearly fly of her face and she jerks back. "Excuse me?"
"I am in a relationship with Diggle and Felicity."
Thea looks between him and Moira, then seems to notice that Moira doesn't look the least bit fazed. Roy just looks uncomfortable. "Mom, you knew?"
"That's not why you're all here, though," Oliver interrupts.
Moira tenses and some of the discomfort fades from Roy.
"Mom asked why I ended up in the hospital. The truth is, a few days ago I was injured while stopping a criminal who was injected with the mirakuru serum, the same serum that I thought I had destroyed while on the island."
Thea, Roy, and Moira stare at him.
Roy shakes his head in disbelief. "That was the vigilante. The news report said so. They found an arrow."
"I am the vigilante."
In the silence that falls over the room, he holds out his hand. Felicity picks up the briefcase on the floor next to her. He sets it in his lap, flicks it open, and then turns it to face the others. Inside are his green hood and an arrow.
Roy lurches to his feet. "You shot me!"
"You can shoot me if it makes you feel any better." Roy sits down abruptly.
Thea stares at him, her mouth moving but no sound coming out. Moira's stare is harder. She knows more than she's been letting on, and he has a feeling it has to do with Malcom Merlyn.
"Why?" Moira says. He knows she's not referring to shooting Roy.
"When dad died..." Oliver's throat tightens. Felicity's hand is tight in his. Diggle's hand settles protectively on the back of his neck. "When dad killed himself to save me, he left me with a list. A list of names of people who had hurt our city. I had to stop them, or dad's sacrifice would have been meaningless."
Moira's eyes water but no tears fall. "And you learned how to do that while alone on an island?"
"I was never alone on the island."
He tells them then, about Yao Fei, Shado, Slade, and Sarah. He tells them about the times he nearly died. He tells them about all the people he lost on the island. He tells them about mirakuru and Malcom and Tommy.
By the time he's done, none of the Queens have dry eyes and Roy is staring at him with something akin to hero worship.
For the first time since he came back from the island, he feels free.
Diggle and Felicity stay with him that night. They each take a side, sandwiching him protectively between them. Felicity is draped lightly over his side, her hand and Diggle's crossed over his heart.
"I'm proud of you, Oliver," Diggle says.
Oliver smiles. He turns his head and Diggle obligingly kisses him lightly on the mouth. "It feels good, not having to lie."
"You do realize," Felicity says, "that this just means you're going to have more than just me and Digs mother-henning you from now on."
"I can live with that."
"That's the point."
He smiles and drifts off to sleep, trusting in Diggle and Felicity to keep him safe.
Roy approaches him after breakfast. "I want you to teach me."
He opens his mouth to say no, but then thinks better of it. "Why?" He asks instead.
"I want to be able to do what you do."
Oliver frowns. "You mean, hurt people?"
Roy's eyes widen and he shakes his head. "No, save them. I want to help people. I want my life to mean something. Like yours. The vigilante means so much to the people of Starling City. You give them hope."
It's strange having someone say that to his face instead of hearing it off of media commentary. He almost blushes. "Alright, but don't think I'm going to go easy on you."
Roy grins. "I don't want easy."
"Nothing ever is."
Thea and Felicity join him for Roy's first training session. He assumes they're there to watch, but instead they stand next to Roy, forming a line. Oliver raises an eyebrow.
"We talked," Felicity says, gesturing between her and Thea, and Oliver has a sudden sense of dread. "We're in too."
"You can't-" Oliver starts, and then shuts up as Diggle raises a hand.
Oliver sighs and settles back into his chair, his leg propped on another. Diggle is his hands for this part of the training, and if he thinks Thea and Felicity should be allowed to train with Roy then Oliver should let them. He wants to protest on the ground of them not getting hurt, but he gave up that right when he told them the truth. Everyone who knows is in danger. At least this way, they might have a slim chance of protecting themselves.
Roy is a surprisingly quick study. With his enhanced speed and strength he gives Diggle a run for his money. Oliver wishes he could be the one training. He wants to pit himself against Roy, to really push him, but he has weeks left before the cast comes off. Every suggestion of trying to get it off sooner has been met with cold, hard stares and he's stopped asking.
He feels vulnerable like this, but anonymity is his protection, and if he can get Roy out there protecting the city in his place, then he'll feel a bit better.
Roy is horrible at archery and they stop trying after the first attempt. Thea, however, takes to it like a duck to water, leaving Oliver feeling proud of her. She'll never be a frontline fighter, but with help from Diggle she's starting to be less of a damsel in distress.
He orders Thea her own bow and a collapsible crossbow she can keep on her person. Roy's suit takes a bit of work but Felicity has ideas, most of which involve a lot of red.
Between the four of them – Thea, Roy, Felicity, and Diggle – he thinks maybe Starling City will be okay without him for a few weeks. He trusts them to keep his city safe. He trusts them to keep him safe.
It's been a long time since he's trusted anyone. It feels good to have so many people to trust in again.